The scholars of Islam now days study Islam 16 hours a day. They read so many books that they seem to have a reservoir of brain. They read so many tafsirs, fiqh, akide and study in details even a single word from the Quran. They study all that religious experience of 14 centuries. They have an entire science for studying even one branch of islam like hadith science, fiqh science etj... Every tag in islam stack exchange is a science. My question is: Why then do we say that the most knowledgeable people are Abu Bakr,then Omar,then those closer to him?? Then the tabiine, then the first three good generations.
It is because the source of the knowledge is the Prophet. The companions observed and learned from the prophet directly for several decades and were intimately familiar with the context of the revelation of the Quraan and Quraanic Arabic was their mother tongue in which they were experts. Only a fraction of their knowledge is preserved and passed onto modern scholars. Even from the generation of the Tabieen, there are those who it is said that they had memorised more ahadith than the total number of ahadith that are present today in books all together.